You sing their praises and they let you down. You profess your love and they break your heart. But then, when they're down 0-3 to the Yankees and all is lost, the Red Sox win the World Series. They finally love you back.
Yes, friends, the 2004 Red Sox season was just begging to be a movie romance. We've all seen it: that undying, completely insane loyalty, the tears dripping into the bottle of Sam Adams, the pain, the triumphs, and David Ortiz. There's a real special, powerful, psychotic love between a Boston fan and his team. And oh yeah?Fever Pitch, the sweet, unexpectedly tame Farrelly brothers labor of love just in time for spring training, is also about a girl.
Lindsey Meeks (Drew Barrymore) has only recently morphed into a success-driven, laptop-toting workaholic, but her carefree new beau, Ben (Jimmy Fallon), became one of "the most pathetic of God's creatures?a Red Sox fan," at the tender age of seven. He tries to keep it under wraps?who could blame him??but a trip to his apartment kinda gives it away. I don't know, ladies?what would you do if you found out your new man had a replica of Fenway Park's Green Monster posing as his living room wall? How about Red Sox shower curtains at age 30? Sox sheets? A Sox toothbrush holder? What if he wrapped his phone in a baseball mitt? What then? Lindsey's not entirely sure. But she figures it can't be that bad, until she gets more and more glimpses of Ben's maniac within. In the end, it all comes down to whether a bunch of guys in matching stirrup pants can come between a Masshole and true love.
Ben and Lindsey's story is sweet and all, but it's nothing special without its historic, still-resonant backdrop. The love-of-the-game romance?after all, this film is as much an ode to Boston and its particular baseball wackiness than anything else?is what makes this flick worth your eight bucks. But maybe the greatest thing about Fever Pitch is how the delicacies with which films often treat dialogue that muses on matters of romantic love?soft music, a slower pace, and those hushed close-ups?here cradle the Red Sox, baseball, and the greater meditation on deeply held passions, whatever they're for. It's no surprise that the Farrellys are Sox fans themselves.
Speaking of which, Jimmy Fallon grew up in New York as a, yes, a Yankees fan. Now don't get your Cracker Jax in a bunch; he's an actor. But this SNL star is no Will Ferrell. He doesn't have the clownish presence to immortalize lackluster phrases into college dorm mantras (e.g. Anchorman: "I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"). But Fallon does sport his own, shrugged-shoulders charm that he could easily develop in later films. It's no match, though, for the unbearable cuteness of Drew Barrymore.
More than anyone working in Hollywood today, Drew has cute down to an art, probably a finger-painting; in fact, Drew is cute incarnate. Usually, I can handle it. Those rosy cheeks, that borderline ditzy voice. She's one of the few successful kid actors who stayed oddly kid-like even in perfectly grown-up roles. In a business suit and spike pumps, something about Lindsey Meeks (and look at that name?"meek") still recalls a pigtailed little girl dangling a teddy bear by its legs. Ben, for his part, likes the way Lindsey?and Drew?talks out of one side of her mouth, "like a charming stroke victim," he coddles. I, however, could do without this time around. I mean, she's adorable, yes, but could we just ask the head bobbing to stop? That's all I ask.
There are some other characters here, but they are so unfunny and, frankly, unnecessary, that it's almost painful. They tried to squeeze a whole tube of comic relief out of one of Ben's friends, a hokey anesthesiologist who tries to shave his...well, you know. But none of that got too many laughs. Oh?and don't mistake that as a sign of more Farrelly gross-out humor. Aside from a quick scene involving vomit and a dog that might lick up anything, there's no more where that came from. The icky feeling that nags at your gut even in their last film, Stuck on You, warms up by the dugout but never takes the field. And if there's anything to lament here, it's that.
In the world of fraternal Hollywood partners in crime, where The Matrix's Wachowski brothers lord over the technical stuff and the Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou Coen brothers dictate artsy sophistication, Bobby and Peter Farrelly?the biggest brains behind our dumbest comedies (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary, Shallow Hal)?tell the fart jokes. It's just what they do. These guys are the Wringling brothers plus a plot and minus the face paint, everyone sporting Cameron Diaz's favorite Ben Stiller-based hair gel (eeeewwww). I mean, who could forget that extra-hold up-do in There's Something About Mary? Or the way the frozen snot on Jim Carrey's face glistened in the fading twilight as he rode his motorcycle into Aspen in Dumb and Dumber? Who did not burn a few calories laughing that off? And who, oh who, wouldn't want more?
So it's love over laughs, cuteness over grossness in Fever Pitch, plump and juicy like a good old Fenway frank. It's not your typical ab-crunching Farrelly fest, and there's nothing to quote, but look it this way: the Red Sox romance took 86 years to reach its happily-ever-after. In Fever Pitch, you're there and back in less time than it takes to drive down to Boston and pahk yeh cah in...well, wherever you can find a spot.